According to the Defense sources, the newly inducted versatile Rafale jets are now being flown over the Ladakh skies in the recent days to familiarize both the pilots and the machine with the volatile border-zone.
The message from this action is clear: IAF wants to strengthen and project its power amid almost 5-month-long military confrontation with China in the high-altitude region.
It’s apparent that the pilots flew from Ambala-base, which will eventually be a home for 18 Rafale jets up from the current number of 5. Since these jets have an impressive combat range of 3,200 – 3,700 km ( with full fuel tank and fully loaded combat weapons), they need not be stationed at Leh as conducting sorties from Ambala is a breeze for these jets.
Though the news of active deployment has just surfaced, IAF pilots have been flying these Omni-role jets on the day and night sorties in different terrains, including the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh since they made a touch-down on 29th July. To become the forefront fighter of IAF, Rafale must learn to operate in all the possible Indian terrains.
Amazing is the fact that the deployment of French-made Rafale jets in Ladakh comes less than 10 days after they were formally inducted into the IAF on 10th September.
That day, IAF chief Air Chief Marshal R K S Bhadauria spoke in praise of the jet and emphasized that the induction of Rafales could not have happened at a more opportune time considering the security scenario today.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh, in turn, said that this historic moment sends a strong message for the world and especially for those who challenge India’s sovereignty.
Though this news may be about Rafale, don’t forget that India’s top fighter jets like Sukhoi Su-30MKI, Jaguar and Mirage 2000 have also been actively conducting operations in eastern Ladakh and elsewhere along the LAC since the unrest began. Helicopters like Chinook heavy-lift and Apache attack have also seen deployment along the long 3,488-km critical region.
This winter, the harsh winter of Ladakh where the temperature may drop to minus 25 – Indian Army has made elaborate arrangements to maintain the current level of troops and weapons in all forward areas in eastern Ladakh and other sensitive high-altitude sectors to thwart any misadventure by the Chinese PLA. All the strength to those brave troops!